Yom Kippur from the Kovno Ghetto
Join Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman as he explores fasting on Yom Kippur through a meaningful responsa written in the Kovno Ghetto by Rabbi Ephraim Oshry in his book “She’eilot Uteshuvot Mima’amakim” (Questions and Answers from the Depth)
Yom Kippur from the Kovno Ghetto: Lesson 1
There are two well-known rules in Halacha. One rule is known as “וחי בהם ” no mitzvah is needs to be observed if its fulfillment may lead to the loss of human life. So even though fasting on Yom Kippur is of supreme importance, if a person is ill and the fast may jeopardize his life, that person has a mitzvah to eat on Yom Kippur in order to preserve his life. A second mitzvah is the mitzvah of “קידוש ה'” – the mitzvah of martyrdom. When Gentiles are attacking the Jewish people with the aim of stamping out the Torah we must be willing to lay down our lives rather than violate even the most trivial Halacha. Rav Ephraim Oshry zt”l  was a great scholar who spent the Holocaust period imprisoned in the ghetto of Kovno, Lithuania. He recorded the Halachic questions that were brought to him by his fellow inmates in his five-volume work שו”ת ממעמקים . The briefest perusal of this work leaves one in awe of the these people’s devotion to Hashem and the Torah. This coming Tuesday we will study, bli neder, one of these תשובות. Rav Oshry was asked by patients in the ghetto’s hospital if they should fast on Yom Kippur. We will learn about the patients and their desire to observe the fast despite their state of starvation and Rav Oshry’s pleading with them to accept that Hashem wants more than anything else that they do whatever is needed to survive.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim_Oshry
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.